Lisa Bonvissuto
City Business

HANmade Milwaukee

The story of how two women of different generations created a perfectly retro Milwaukee keepsake or souvenir.

By - Oct 23rd, 2014 03:24 pm

Colleen McCarrier and Hannah Jablonski are on a mission to create the perfect Milwaukee souvenirs. They are the co-founders of HANmade Milwaukee, though they also think of themselves, respectively,  as the “idea gal” and the “art gal.”

Since her childhood, McCarrier has always loved the idea of a souvenir from vacations. “I remember as a kid always wanting that souvenir keepsake but never getting one,” she says. “As an adult, buying something to bring home to associate with happy memories is pretty much an essential.”  She was especially interested in those 1950s-era tablecloth souvenirs.

HANmade Milwaukee

HANmade Milwaukee

“These colorful clothes, usually card table size, captured the points of interest of a particular location… from orange groves to long-horned cattle, the French Quarter to the Empire State Building, blueberries to dairy farms,” the website for HANmade Milwaukee notes. “The tablecloths were a fun, and practical, take-home reminder of pleasant time spent in another place.” And, of course, they were bright and colorful. “Why not one for Milwaukee?” McCarrier asked herself.

Her idea never would have become a reality, though, if she hadn’t met Jablonski, her cousin’s daughter, at an open house she had for another business venture. After McCarrier shared her dream to create a souvenir bandana of Milwaukee, Jablonski took on the task.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting into, and I mean that in a good way!”  Jablonski says, when asked what she originally thought of Colleen’s idea. The two talked about how to best embody the idea in artwork and Jablonski set about to realize the vision: She took Colleen’s stick figure drawing and turned it into a lively, detailed cloth map of Milwaukee’s lakefront, with playful icons representing various Milwaukee landmarks. It’s the sort of thing you can wear as a scarf, put on your dog, hang on your wall or use as a (card table-sized) table cloth.

The two started a business in November 2011, registering HANmade Milwaukee as a trademarked name and began selling the souvenir table cloths. They don’t have an actual storefront, so their business dealings are mostly done online. They meanwhile hopes to do more collaborations, despite the three decades separating them in age. If anything, McCarrier feels like this makes their partnership stronger. “We each bring a different but complementary perspective to product idea and implementation,” she says. Jablonski agrees: “We make a great team because we have differing backgrounds and experiences.”

Recently, the two collaborated to make a jigsaw puzzle, which uses the  same design of Milwaukee’s lakefront, but in a different format. That’s become the company’s second product. McCarrier says she loves its “old school vibe.” This throwback to a different time is signature for the HANmade brand, and a key to what gives the products their charm.

So what’s next? “HANmade is always evolving,” McCarrier says, so perhaps there are more to come. Meanwhile, you can purchase HANmade Milwaukee products on their website.

HANmade Products

Categories: Business, City Business

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